The latest issue of Time magazine addresses this issue and includes an essay by Nancy Gibbs in which she contrasts the Asian “Tiger Mom” with the American “Helicopter Mom” who hovers around her children making sure they get the best of everything and paving the way ahead of them, removing all obstacles and making sure the road is smooth. As I contemplated these issues I found myself relieved that my parenting days are behind me. There are so many questions about the best way to raise children and so many mistakes one can make. Were we too easy on our kids? Or were we too hard on them? I don’t know, but at this point for me the question is moot. I can’t change it now. But I know finding the right approach is a burning topic for many. I wish I had all the answers for those who are asking the questions, but I don’t.
Perhaps at the core of the question is the definition of success. I wanted my kids to be successful. But successful at what? It would seem preferable if they are talented, skilled and hard-working enough to do well in this world. But is that the most important objective? I do not think it is. J esus said the most important commandments are to love God with all your heart, soul and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. It would seem that for Christian parents then that would be the definition of success. If my child loves God and loves other people, then I have accomplished my task as a parent. I suppose I am stating the obvious that as followers of Jesus we value something different than our world does, and as a result we aim at something different in our lives and in raising our children. Would a real follower of Jesus be satisfied if he or she raised a child who was wildly successful in a prestigious career but did not know God or love him, or was selfish and did not really love others? I don’t think so. Would that same believer be satisfied if he or she raised a child who loved God passionately, who created a loving marriage and family, who gave unstintingly to others out of love, but who eked out a living in a rather menial job? Frankly, I would hope so.
If our goal is to raise children to become adults who love God and love people as the most important things in life, surely our approach will be rather different than the world around us. All the pushing in the world to succeed in school or sports will never teach a child to love God. In fact, at times such an approach might even compete with that greater goal. How does one teach another to love God and love people? As far as I can tell the biggest elements of that will be example and repetition. The kids are going to have to hear it over and over, and they’re going to have to see it lived out in front of them. As I said, I don’t have all the answers when it comes to bringing up children. But I do know that it is crucial for parents to be clear on what they’re trying to accomplish. And for parents who follow Jesus, that is going to be very different than what all the Soccer Moms, Tiger Moms and Helicopter Parents around them are pursuing.